Govts come in colours everywhere

In as sure a sign as any that a new government is taking over management of NZ Inc, yesterday the website — where all governmental and Cabinet announcements are aggregated — was down for maintenance.

The red trimming used when Labour was in power would have been being removed, to be replaced by the blue used when National is in power, and whatever shade Act New Zealand and New Zealand First would like on their announcements.

Outgoing ministers had until Sunday to vacate their offices and incoming ministers and staff spent yesterday arranging the furniture and finding their way around the Beehive, a building seemingly designed to make people turn 180 degrees to find out what their position is.

Possibly not at all coincidentally, there were also several papers and reports released yesterday, documents which demonstrate just how challenging some of the new administration’s policy priorities will be to deliver on.

Proactively released yesterday was a Cabinet report on Labour’s promised plan to "enhance critical infrastructure resilience" — a work programme which Chris Hipkins, Grant Robertson and Ginny Anderson will not get to implement.

Its release, soon after National’s leadership spent the Monday morning round of electronic media interviews talking up their plans to repeal Labour’s Resource Management Act reforms, was instructional.

No-one in the last Parliament disagreed that the RMA needed reform, but what kind of reform was a heated battle.

The Cabinet Paper is part of the promise Labour made in response to Cyclone Gabrielle and the damage it wrought, to try to ensure critical transport and communication links would survive — or at least be swiftly repaired — following major disasters.

It sets out an "ambitious timeline" for consultation and debate on the proposed Bill be done and dusted within in a year, so that "robust minimum resilience standards" will be implemented.

But this would require working within planning legislation, freshly-passed laws which will soon be headed for the shredder.

Furthermore, the paper noted swift regulatory reform would be needed. As of 11am yesterday New Zealand now has a Minister of Regulation, and it is yet untested what part the relevant minister, Act leader David Seymour, will take in law making and how time-consuming that process will be.

Labour’s consenting and planning laws took years to get to the House and will take hours to reverse. Few can complain about their repeal: it was no mystery that this was what the parties which won the election were promising to do.

What they can ask serious questions about however, is what will replace them, how soon that will happen, and what cognisance will ministers take of that resilience Cabinet paper which landed on their desks on day one?

Also destined for the trash can are the previous government’s Three Waters reforms. Again, no surprises here, much of National and Act’s election trail rhetoric was centred on their repeal, and that was repeated yesterday as the first 100 Days plan was revealed.

A section of Greenpeace's "Know Your Nitrate" map focusing on the Otago/Southland area. IMAGE: CC...
A section of Greenpeace's "Know Your Nitrate" map focusing on the Otago/Southland area. IMAGE: CC BY GREENPEACE
But earlier in the day Greenpeace New Zealand released a "Know Your Nitrate" map, an interactive web-based tool which allows users — and that includes MPs seeking to reform fresh water standards — to search for information on local levels of nitrate in their water.

The map does not make good reading for South Islanders: there are more elevated areas of potential nitrate contamination recorded than in the North, and some areas have very high readings.

Now, there are very few things historically that National, Act and New Zealand First agree on with Greenpeace and the environmental lobby group is unlikely to be among the first group of interested parties offered meetings with the governing parties,

But they, and everyone else for that matter, are equally invested in ensuring streams and rivers are healthy and water is fit for human or beast to drink.

While the secondary colour source of the information might not be in current vogue on the Beehive website, that does not mean that information from Green-leaning organisations is not going to be useful in implementing water management reform. In fact, it might be vital.

To repeat another piece of election trail rhetoric, our new government has pledged to govern for all New Zealanders. This issue might just be the perfect test of that promise.